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Paternity in Illinois
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In Illinois paternity establishes the legal relationship between a father and a child. In Illinois, you are a child's legal father when:
- You were married to the child's mother when the child was born or when the child was conceived (or both)
- You married the mother after the child's birth and you are listed (with your permission) on the child's birth certificate as the father
- There is a court order or Department of Public Aid administrative order of paternity
- You and the mother have signed a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage or acknowledgement of paternity form
You only have the right to ask a court for custody or visitation with a child when you meet one of these above requirements. Alternatively, if you do not meet any of the above requirements, then the child's mother does not have the right to ask a court to order you to pay child support.
If you want to challenge whether or not you are actually the father of a child, you can file a paternity test. Be aware though that in some cases when you have signed an acknowledgement of paternity form, you can still be obligated to pay child support even if it turns out that you are not the father. Those are usually matters when the Illinois Department of Public Aid has been involved. Unlike some other states, in Illinois you can challenge paternity even if you were married to the mother when the child was conceived.
There are time limits on when a paternity case can be filed in court. In general, the case can be filed until the child's 18th birthday. However, there are certain situations where the case can be filed until the child's 20th birthday. Note also that you may not be able to bring a paternity case if you have not visited, supported or communicated with the child for 3 years. Having paid child support voluntarily does not in of itself establish paternity.
Once paternity has been established, custody of the child as well as visitation is determined based on the best interests of the child. A father and mother have the exact same rights and whether or not they have been married is irrelevant when a judge determines what is in the child's best interests.
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